There’s an exhibition of digital art on at the V&A Museum in Kensington, London at the moment. It’s called Decode and is on until April 11. I’d really recommend seeing it if you’re a programmer that is interested in Art and animation. Some of the exhibits are interactive and the output is to large video screens. Have a look at the site on the V&A page. There’s some stunning art there. I went along to a hack weekend to meet with some of the guys involved with OpenFrameworks, which is a software framework that aims to make this sort of art easier (not simple) for the non-programming designer to get into. Zach and Joel gave an afternoon of coding examples and a discussion around the libraries and then the weekend was taken up by groups working on specific hacks such as drawing with audio, control of hardware such as Arduino, gestures from camera input. There was a really enthusiastic crowd of a couple of dozen and the public were allowed in to see the results and to be shown how variable the direction of the art could take. Lots of exmples and lots of inspiration.

Zach Lieberman is from the US, Joel Gethin Lewis from the UK. Arturo Castro and a number of other experts were there. A lot of knowledge of not only OpenFrameworks, but also openCV, Processing, hardware such as Arduinos, cameras, lasers etc. They were all as enthusiastic as I’d hoped, an inspirational bunch which made the whole crowd feel welcome and they pushed themselves through a number of project ideas.

Friday afternoon, Joel and Zach gave a quick introduction to not just OpenFrameworks, but to programming as well. From nothing to graphics on screen in minutes. Easy! The V&A had been really generous. The room was great, plenty of power, projectors and a whole fleet of Mac laptops and desktops to allow anyone to come in and try programming. Really supportive. Most people had already brought their own laptops with a fairly equal split between Mac and PC. The software is easy to set up. They use XCode on the Macs and either VisualStudio or Codeblocks on the PC. I was using Visual studio but the builds seemed a lot quicker on the other systems so I may try CodeBlocks at some point. Easy to start though. The downloaded files just need to be put into a directory, one of the example apps can be opened and all the required libraries are in place elsewhere in the directory structure. Just build and go. We had the initial task of creating our names using polygons and rectangles to get us into the graphic libraries. Not too difficult once you had the workspace coordinates correct.

THe idea behind openFrameworks is that the team will discover lots of interesting software libraries for graphics or interfacing to hardware and then they will write wrappers for these to give a consistent programming interface to users in OpenFrameworks. There are many libraries already; the software has been around for over three years. It allows the artist to concentrate on the project without having to spend too much time learning to program. Once they have learnt one interface, others would follow exactly the same lines. It all sounds simple and it is initially, but if your ideas are complex then the programming will be too. It was good to see a mixture of programmers, designers, DJs and performers; quite a mixed bunch of talents. I didn’t feel to out of place in the art world. I’d like to get into the camera interaction with gestures and so I shall probably buy one of the PS3 Eye cameras which seemed to be highly recommended.

This link to a youtube video is one of my favourite, yet simple examples of the power of the OF system, it’s drawing using sound pitch and volume. Do have a look at the software and try something yourself.


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